Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death
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Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Dr. Greger offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers in the United States.

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In past years I’ve addressed the most pressing dietary issues of our time, like: What’s the healthiest variety of apple, the most nutritious nut, the best bean, the best berry, the best bowel movement!…

Who’s #1 at #2? Well, it wasn’t the new Yorkers—the most constipated population ever described in the medical literature, outputting an average of just 3 measly ounces a day…

Maybe if they’d just eat a big apple once and awhile…

But this year, I thought I’d lighten it up, and answer: What’s-the-best… way-to-prevent, death. Every year the CDC updates the leading causes of death in the United States. So, let’s just start at the top, and touch on what’s new in each category.

Heart disease, #1. The 35 year follow-up of the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study was just published now the most definitive long-term study ever on older women’s health. Since the study started, thousands of participants died, but that allowed them to determine the “risk factors for mortality.”

Because heart disease was the leading cause of death, it comes as no surprise that dietary cholesterol consumption was significant risk factor for dying. The second leading cause was smoking-related cancer deaths, but what’s so neat about this study is that it’s a competing risks analysis, so it allowed them to compare different risks to one another.

Consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg-a-day appears to cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking 5 cigarettes a day, for 15 years.

The most protective behavior they found was fiber consumption. Eating just a cup of oatmeal’s worth of fiber a day appears to extend a woman’s life as much as 4 hours of jogging a week, but of course there’s no reason you can’t do both.

It’s worth noting that the intake of cholesterol, only found in animal foods, was associated with living a shorter life and the intake of fiber, only found in plant foods, was associated with living a longer life.

The one specific food most tied to longevity was, nuts. You also appear to get 4 hours of weekly jogging benefit eating just two handfuls of nuts a week.

Yeah, heart disease, #1 cause of death, but what if your cholesterol’s normal? I hear that all the time, and have to break it to them that having a “normal” cholesterol in a society where it’s normal to… drop dead of a heart attack—is not necessarily a good thing. Remember, it’s our #1 killer.

In a huge study last year, most heart attack patients “fell within recommended targets for LDL cholesterol, demonstrating that the current guidelines may not be low enough to cut heart attack risk.” Close to half of heart attack victims had quote-unquote “optimal” cholesterol levels… though I’m not sure their grieving spouses and orphaned children will take much comfort in that fact. What is considered “optimal” is still too high.

Yeah, having a below average cholesterol reduces your risk, but, as the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology wrote more than a decade ago, it’s time to shift from just decreasing risk to actually preventing and arresting atherosclerosis. You don’t want low risk; you want no risk—how do you do it.

“For the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian. Because relatively few persons are willing to abide by the vegetarian lifestyle, lipid-lowering drugs are required in most to reach the 150 level. So it’s our choice.

Now notice though, even though the average vegan has a cholesterol of 150, it doesn’t mean that all vegans have 150. That’s why I do free cholesterol screenings here at Summerfest. Stop by my table. A little drop of blood. Just will take a couple of minutes. I’ll be happy to do that for you.

So it’s our choice—diet or drugs. Why not just choose the drugs? The FDA just announced newly-mandated safety labeling for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor, Zocor, and Vytorin, etc. The FDA issued new side-effect warnings regarding the increased risk of brain related side effects such as memory loss and confusion, an increase in blood sugar levels and risk of new-onset diabetes.

One prominent cardiologist described the Faustian bargain: fewer heart attacks, but more diabetes. And, we learned just a few weeks ago “adverse effects of statins on energy levels and fatigue even at moderate doses, particularly for women.

With all the memory loss and confusion caused by these drugs, folks may forget there’s actually way to lower the risk of heart attacks and diabetes at the same time, a plant-based diet.

Now cholesterol is just half of the heart disease story. The other half is inflammation. We’ve known for 15 years, that a single meal high in animal fat— sausage and egg McMuffins were used in the original study— can paralyze our arteries, cutting their ability to relax normally in half within just hours of eating animal products. The lining of our entire vascular tree gets inflamed and stiffened. And just as the inflammatory crippled state starts to calm down 5 or 6 hours later—lunchtime! We may then whack our arteries with another load of meat, eggs, or dairy for lunch, such that most people are stuck in this chronic low-grade inflammation danger zone, which may set them up for inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer one meal at a time.

Does the same thing to our lungs–again, within hours. Inflammation in our airways. A single meal causing internal damage not just decades down the road but right then and there, that day, within hours of it going in your mouth.

And just this year, we may have finally solved the mystery as to why. It doesn’t appear to be the animal fat itself. And it’s apparently not the animal protein, (which is what we see triggering inflammation in arthritis). So if it’s not the animal fat, and it’s not the animal protein, what is it?

The whole thing is a crazy cool detective story that I’ll be putting up in a series of videos next week actually, but I’ll just cut to the chase—spoiler alert! After a meal of animal products, people suffer from endotoxemia, their bloodstream becomes awash with bacterial toxins, known as endotoxins, that are present in animal products. So no wonder our body goes crazy.

These dead meat bacteria toxins aren’t destroyed by stomach acid… aren’t destroyed by digestive enzymes, aren’t destroyed by cooking—they tried boiling meat for hours. “These bacterial endotoxins were found to be highly resistant to cooking and our bodies’ best attempts at acid and enzyme digestion.”

And then the animal fat actually does play a profound role, ferrying the bacterial toxins present in the meat through the gut wall into our system.

So the reason animal products trigger immediate inflammation appears to be because they’re so loaded with bacteria that can trigger inflammation dead or alive even when they’re fully cooked, and saturated animal fat then boosts the absorption of the bacterial toxins into our bloodstream.

So now that we know what’s going on, what do we need to do? From a 2012 follow-up: “While the most obvious solution to this metabolic endotoxemia appears to be to reduce saturated fat intake” (which in this country comes mostly from cheese and chicken), but, they say, “the Western diet is not conducive to this mode of action; it’s difficult for patients to comply with this request.” So what? Let’s not even tell them?

This patronizing attitude in the medical profession that “oh, patients won’t improve their diets, or stop smoking—even if it’s going to save their lives, so why bother?” That attitude may be one of the true leading causes of death.

But let’s get back to the official list, and take on Cancer next. What’s the latest?

We know from the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer ever, that “the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians,” especially some of the fastest growing tumors, lymphomas and leukemias. And for that the worst meat was actually chicken….

Up to triple the rates for every 50 grams of daily poultry consumption. That’s just a quarter of a chicken breast may triple your risk.

Normally this entire presentation would be in kind of a quiz show format, but there was a scheduling mix-up. I was supposed to be the last speaker of the night, at night, and so I could go long and not interfere with the schedule. But, anyway, it won’t happen again, and so next year be back to the quiz show format. And I apologize. I had to cut this short.

The link between meat and cancer is such that even the journal Meat Science asked last year “Should we become vegetarians, or… can we make meat safer. There’s a bunch of additives, for example, that “can suppress the toxic effects of heme iron,” the blood iron that’s found in meat. These additives are still under study, but “could provide an acceptable way to prevent colon cancer,” because evidently avoiding meat is just out of the question.

 They fear that if the National Cancer Institute recommendations to reduce meat consumption “were adhered to, sure, cancer incidence may be reduced, but famers and the meat industry would suffer important economical problems…”

For those of us more concerned about the suffering caused the meat industry, than the suffering of the meat industry, what happens if you put cancer on a vegan diet? The Pritikin Research Foundation just completed an elegant series of experiments that I want to spend a bit of time on them. Simple experiments. They put people on different diets, drew their blood and dripped their blood on cancer cells growing in a petri dish and just stood back to see whose blood was better at suppressing cancer growth.

They were the ones that published that study showing the blood of those on a vegan diet was dramatically less hospitable to cancer. Even the blood of those on a standard American diet fights cancer; if it didn’t everyone would be dead. It’s just that the blood of those eating vegan fights about 8 times better.

The blood of those on the standard American diet slows cancer growth rate down about 9%. Put people on a plant-based diet for a year, though, and their blood just tears it up. The blood circulating within the bodies of vegans has nearly 8 times the stopping power when it comes to cancer cell growth.

Now this was for prostate cancer, the most common cancer of men, In women, it’s breast cancer, so the Pritikin researchers tried duplicating the study with women using breast cancer cells instead. They didn’t want to wait a whole year to get the results, though. So they figured they’d see what a plant-based diet could do in just two weeks, against three different types of human breast cancer.

This is the before, cancer growth powering away at 100%. And then after, eating a plant-based diet for 14 days.

The same blood that was now coursing through these women’s bodies gained the power to significantly slow down, and stop breast cancer cell growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a plant-based diet.

What kind of blood do we want in our body, what kind of immune system? Do we want blood that just kind of rolls over when cancer cells pop up, or do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny of our body that has the power to slow down and stop them?

Now this strengthening of cancer defenses was after 14 days of a plant-based diet and exercise, they were out walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Maybe the only reason their blood started becoming so effective at suppressing cancer growth was because of the exercise—maybe the diet had nothing to do with it. So they put it do the test.

This is measuring cancer cell clearance. This is what we saw before, the effect of blood taken from those who ate a plant-based diet, in this case for 14 years and along with mild exercise—like just walking every day. Plant-based diet and walking—that’s the kind of cancer cell clearance you get. Compared to the cancer stopping power of your average sedentary meat-eater, which is basically nonexistent.

This middle group, instead of 14 years on a plant-based diet, ate 14 years of a standard American diet but had 14 years of daily strenuous, hour-long exercise, like calisthenics. The researchers wanted to know if you exercise hard enough, long enough, can you rival some strolling plant-eaters.

And… exercise helped—no question, but literally 5,000 hours in the gym, was no match for a plant-based diet.

Here’s an actual photomicrograph of cancer cells stained so that they’d release light when they die. As you can see in the control group, there were a few cancer cells dying. Even if you are a couch potato eating fried potatoes, your body’s not totally defenseless. But here’s the hard-core strenuous exercise group. Cancer cells dying left and right. But nothing appears to kick cancer butt more than a plant based diet. 

Why, though? Some people don’t care why, but I’m always curious. How does a simple dietary change make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer in just a matter of days? We didn’t know until last year, when “[they] sought to determine the underlying mechanisms for these anticancer effects.”

It’s a wild story I have a whole series of videos coming out about. It in involves little people, big people; It involves big dogs and… little dogs, the story involves marshmallows… tinkertoys… cannibalism, and vegan bodybuilders, from beef steak to beefcake—I wish I had time—but the videos will be up soon. Bottom line—the answer to the Pritikin puzzle is IGF-1.

Insulin-like Growth Factor One is a cancer-promoting growth hormone involved in every stage of cancer growth, proliferation, metastasis, and invasion. But you put people on a plant-based diet and their IGF-1 levels go down, and if they stay on a plant-based diet their levels drop even further.

And their IGF-1 binding protein levels go up. That’s one way our body tries to protect itself from cancer—from excessive growth—by releasing a binding protein into our bloodstream to tie up IGF-1. It’s like our body’s emergency brake. Yes, in as little as 11 days, a plant-based diet can reprogram your body to bring down IGF-1 production, but you still have all that IGF-1 circulating in your bloodstream from the bacon and eggs you had the week before. So, your liver releases a snatch squad of binding proteins to take it out of circulation, and as you can see it just gets better and better the longer you eat healthy.

Here’s the experiment that nailed IGF-1 as the villain. Same as last time. Go on a plant-based diet; Cancer cell growth drops; and cancer cell death, shoots up. But then here’s the kicker. What if you added back to the cancer the exact same amount of IGF-1 banished from your body because you were eating healthy? … It erases the diet and exercise effect. It’s like you never started eating healthy at all.

So that’s how we know that lowering animal product consumption leads to lower IGF-1, which leads to lower cancer growth. But how low does animal-product-consumption have to go? How plant-based does our diet need to get? Well, let’s look at IGF1 levels in meat eaters, versus vegetarians, versus vegans. Does a plant-based diet work better at lower the circulating level of IGF-1 compared with a meat-eating or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, and this is what they found. Only the vegans had significantly lower levels. And the same relationship found with IGF-binding capacity. Only the vegans were significantly able to bind up excess IGF-1 in their blood streams.

This was a study done on women…, what about vegan men? They found the same thing… So even though vegan men tend to have significantly higher testosterone levels, than both vegetarians and meat eaters—which can be a risk factor for prostate cancer, the reason plant-based diets appear to reverse the progression of prostate cancer, may be due to how low their IGF-1 drops. High testosterone, yet low cancer.

The bottom line… is that male or female, just eating vegetarian did not seem to cut it—didn’t do their body many favors. It looks like to get a significant drop in cancer-promoting growth hormone levels one really has to move towards eliminating animal products altogether. The good news is that given what we now know about IGF-1, we can predict, “that a… vegan diet may be profoundly protective with respect to, for example, risk for breast cancer in older women.”

OK, just 13 causes of death to go! What time is it?

Let me quickly run the list. The top three killers used to be heart disease/cancer/stroke. Oh, that is so 2011. Now it’s heart disease, cancer and COPD—like emphysema. Thankfully, COPD can be prevented with the help of a plant-based diet, and even treated with plants if you want to check that out.

Of course, the tobacco industry viewed these landmark findings a little differently. Instead of adding plants to ones diet to prevent emphysema, wouldn’t it be simpler to just add them to the cigarettes? And voila, the addition of acai berries to cigarettes evidently had a protective effect against emphysema in smoking mice.

Next they’re going to be putting berries in meat. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Adding fruit extracts to burgers was not without its glitches, though. The blackberries “literally dyed burger patties with a distinct purplish color…” though infusing lamb carcasses with kiwifruit juice before rigor mortis sets in does evidently improve tenderness… and it is possible to improve the nutritional profile of frankurters with powdered grape seeds… though there were complaints that the grape seed particles were visible in the final product, and if there’s one thing we know about hot dog eaters, it’s that they’re picky about what goes in their food.

Pig anus? OK, but grape seeds? Ew!

Preventing strokes, killer #4, is all about eating potassium rich foods. Potassium, from the words pot ash. You take any plant, put it in a pot and reduce it to ash you’re left with pot-ash-ium—true story, but can anyone name me a plant food particularly high in potassium???

Why is that like the one thing everyone knows about nutrition? Did Chiquita have a good PR firm or something?

I bet you could walk into the Heart Attack Grill, where they’re eating things like this, and ask anyone, and they may be like “I don’t know what to should eat, but I do know bananas got potassium.”

In reality, bananas don’t even make the top 50 sources, coming in at #86, right behind fast food vanilla milk shakes.

Let’s see who can guess the food with the highest potassium. Let’s get everyone on their feet. Is the whole food with the highest potassium content a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or nut. Ok, root stem leaf or flower? What kind of green and then number to beet—I keep giving you hint)

The top five sources are tomato and orange concentrates, and then in terms of whole foods, greens, beans, and dates.

In fact if you look at the next leading cause of death, bananas, could be downright dangerous.

Alzheimer’s, now our sixth leading killer. We’ve known for nearly 20 years now, that those who eat meat—red or white—appear between 2 to 3 times more likely to become demented, compared to vegetarians. And the longer you’re vegetarian, the lower your risk of dementia.

But the exciting new research is on treating Alzheimer’s using natural plant remedies, which beat out placebo, and worked as well as a leading Alzheimer’s drug. Again, all on the website; all for free.

Next on the kick-the-bucket, list… diabetes, which can be prevented, treated, and even reversed in many cases—check out Brenda’s talk at 3 o’clock today. This is from October. Those eating vegetarian had significantly lower risk of diabetes, but vegans did the best. And ready for the shocker? This was after controlling for obesity. Sure vegans have less diabetes—they’re skinny, but even at the same weight, vegans had just a fraction of the diabetes risk.

Why are vegans, on average, so slim? Obesity is so rare among those eating plant-based diets, nutrition researchers have been desperate to uncover their secret. Yes, they tend to eat fewer calories… but not that many fewer. In the past I’ve gone through a couple of the theories that have emerged. Maybe it’s because people eating plant-strong diets express more of the fat shoveling enzyme inside the powerplants—the mitochondria–within their cells, maybe it’s because they grow different populations of good bacteria in their gut, Maybe it’s because they’re avoiding the obesogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals in meat? An obesity-causing virus in poultry may even be contributing. We’re still not sure, but the theories keep coming.

Here’s the latest: Maybe it’s the propionate. After all, what’s one of the things that’s only in plant foods, never in animal foods? Fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up, plants have fiber to hold them up.

I thought fiber was defined, though, by our inability to digest it. True, we can’t break down fiber, but the gazillions of good bacteria in our guts can. What do they make with it? Propionate, which gets absorbed into our blood stream. So technically we can digest fiber, but just not without a little help from our little friends.

 What does propionate do? Well it inhibits cholesterol synthesis. That’s nice. It also appears to have hypophagic effect, meaning it helps us eat less, apparently by slowing down the rate at which food empties from our stomachs, thereby making us feel fuller longer. “Propionate may either regulate food intake or the generation of new fat cells resulting in an overall anti-obesity effect.” And we can boost the numbers of good bacteria in our gut without probiotics just by eating vegetarian, because we’re feeding our little friends with fiber.

Animal foods also tend to be more calorically dense. For example, to walk off the calories found in single pat of butter you’d have to add an extra 700 yards to your evening stroll…. A quarter mile jog… for each sardine you put in your mouth—and that’s just the edible part. And any who choose to eat two chicken legs better get out on their own two legs and go run an extra 3 miles that day to outrun weight gain.

And that’s for steamed chicken… skin removed.

Here’s the latest: “Meat consumption and prospective weight change.” “Hundreds of thousands of men and women across 10 countries’’ with ‘‘weight gain measured over a 5 year period’’.

What did they find? “Total meat consumption was associated with weight gain.’’ Conclusion: Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management. And this was after controlling for initial weight, physical activity, educational level, smoking status, total energy intake… Wait-a-second—what?! That’s the kicker.

The link between meat and weight gain remained even after controlling for calories, meaning if you have two people eating the same number of calories—the person eating meat may gain more weight. In fact they even calculated how much more.

An intake of 250 g meat/day—like a steak, would lead to an annual weight gain 422 g higher than the weight gain experienced with a same-calorie diet with lower meat content. After 5 y, the weight gain would be about 5 pounds more. Same calories, yet 5 pounds heavier eating meat. And steak was nothing. “The strongest relation with annual weight change—weight gain—was observed for poultry.”

Let’s say you start out normal weight and eat a hamburger every day. This is how much extra weight beyond what’s already in the calories you’d put on every year. What if instead you had the same amount of calories of processed meat, say a ham sandwich? You’d gain this much extra, whereas, just about a half a chicken breast puts you, up to here, above and beyond the calories.

“In conclusion, our results indicate that meat intake is associated with weight gain and this association persisted after adjustment for total energy intake. Our results are therefore in favor of the public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption for health improvement.”

For more, Make sure to catch the meat industry’s take on that study—very interesting, as well as PCRM’s amazing work putting a vegan diet to work in a corporate setting.

Kidney failure, 8th leading cause of death can be prevented with a plant-based diet; can be treated with a plant-based diet. Why?

Our kidneys are highly vascular organs. That’s why kidneys look so, red inside. Our two little kidneys filter through our entire blood supply. And so if the standard American diet is so toxic to blood vessels in our heart, brain, and pelvis, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and sexual dysfunction, what might it be doing to our kidneys?

Long story short, Harvard researchers found three significant risk factors for declining kidney function—meaning losing protein in your urine (your body’s not supposed to be peeing out it’s protein). The three risk factors were animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol. No such association was found for plant protein or plant fat. It’s not protein; it’s not fat—it’s animal protein; animal fat.

Not only do vegans appear to have better kidney function, dramatic improvements were found treating kidney failure patients with pure vegetarian diets after only one week.

Leading killer number nine is people dying from respiratory infections Check out my video Kale and the Immune System, about the immunostimulatory effects of kale—is there anything kale can’t do?

And if you look at my video Boosting immunity through diet, which was actually the video-of-the-day on Wednesday of this week, you can see that even just eating a few extra fruits and vegetables can significantly improve one’s immune response to pneumococcal pneumonia.

Suicide, is number 10. Last year at Summerfest, I talked about improving mood through diet We knew vegetarian diets were associated with healthier mood states, but you can’t tell if it’s cause and effect until you put it to the test, which they did this year. You take regular meat-eaters, and remove meat, fish, poultry—and eggs, from their diets, and you can see a significant improvement in mood scores, after just two weeks—it can take drugs like Prozac months to take effect.

The way drugs like Prozac work is by elevating levels of serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone. Did you know there’s serotonin in plants? I certainly didn’t, but there’s serotonin, and dopamine and all sorts of human neurotransmitters in plants so much so there’s been a call to start treating depression with high-content sources of serotonin, you know, like plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes. And what’s the side effects, maybe you’ll get a little strawberry seed stick in your teeth or something?

Maybe that’s why a high intake of vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and soy was associated with a decreased prevalence of depressive symptoms. Maybe that’s why improved behavior in teenagers was significantly associated with higher intakes of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit.

For more, keep an eye out for my videos coming up on the wrong way to boost serotonin, which is taking tryptophan supplements. Better ways to boost serotonin, to fight disorders such as premenstrual depression, and the best way… as reported in this double-blind, placebo controlled crossover study of the successful use of butternut squash seeds, in the treatment of social anxiety disorder, for example.

How might a plant-based diet prevent systemic infections? Well, meat-borne bacteria can t directly invade one’s bloodstream through the intestinal wall, or in women creep up into their bladder.

Just last month, June 2012, direct DNA fingerprinting proof that women are getting urinary tract infections from eating meat contaminated with fecal bacteria, which then crawl up into your bladder. And chicken is the most likely reservoir.

Wait a second. You can’t sell unsafe cars, you can’t sell unsafe toys, how is it legal to sell unsafe meat?

They do it by blaming the consumer. As one USDA poultry microbiologist said: “Raw meats are not idiot-proof. They can be mishandled and when they are, it’s like handling a hand grenade. If you pull the pin, somebody’s going to get hurt.” See if we get sick, it’s our fault.

While some may question the wisdom of selling hand grenades in the supermarket, the USDA poultry expert disagrees: “I think the consumer has the most responsibility but refuses to accept it.” That’s like a car company saying yeah, we installed faulty brakes, but it’s your fault for not putting your kid in a seatbelt.

A director of at the Centers for Disease Control responded famously to this kind of blame-the-victim attitude. “Is it reasonable,” she asked, “that if a consumer undercooks a hamburger… their three-year-old dies?” Is that reasonable?

Not to worry, though: the meat industry’s on it. They just got the FDA approval for a bacteria-eating virus to spray on meat.

Now some have raised concerns about these so-called bacteriophages, such as the possibility of the viruses spreading toxin genes between bacteria, especially given the difficulties in preventing of large numbers of these viruses from being released into the environment from the slaughterhouses.

It could also allow the meat industry to become even more complacent about food safety if they know they can just spray some viruses on at the end, similar to the quick fix argument about irradiation. From the industry point of view, who cares if there’s fecal matter in the meat as long as it’s blasted at the end with enough radiation.

Now the meat industry’s concerned that consumer acceptance of bacteria-eating viruses may present something of a challenge. If they think that’s going to be a challenge, check out their other bright idea

The “Effect of Extracted Housefly Pupae on Chilled Pork Preservation.” A sciency way of saying they want smear a maggot mixture on meat.

It’s a low cost and simple method. Think about it. Maggots thrive on rotting meat, yet, there have been no reports that maggots have any serious diseases—not that anyone checked, but… indicating that they have a strong immune system. They must be packed with some sort of antibacterial properties—otherwise they’d get infected and die themselves.

So they took maggots who were 3 days old, washed them, dried them–toweled them off—put through them in tissue blender—a little vitamix action, and voila! Safer meat.

We did kidney failure, what about liver failure. We’ve known for 35 years–since 1977, that a vegetable-protein diet could be used to treat liver failure, significantly reducing the toxins that would otherwise have built up eating meat with a less-than-functional liver. Imagine eating meat without a fully functional liver to detoxify your blood.

I do have to admit, though, that some people live on plant-based diets have worsening liver function. They’re called, alcoholics…

In fact strictly plant-based living on potatoes, corn, grapes, barley—and yet still for some reason not doing so hot.

High blood pressure is next, so-called essential hypertension, essentially, only found in people that eat meat. Again, look at this—we’ve known for decades, that “consumption of food of animal origin was highly significantly associated with blood pressure”—even after “weight effects were removed.”

Fast-forward 39 years to 2012. Compared to non-vegetarians, as you go more and more plant-based—flexitarian, to just eating fish, to lacto-ovo to vegan you can see hypertension rates drop progressively down to a small fraction. Same thing with diabetes, a stepwise drop in risk as you lower animal product consumption. Same thing with body mass index, in fact vegans were the only dietary group that is on average not overweight—even the vegetarians were overweight.

Diabetes and hypertension are both leading causes of death. Is it going to take doctors another 39 years before we actually start doing something about it?

How long does it take being vegan, to bring blood pressures down? Twelve, days!

McDougall took 500 meat eaters, but them on a vegan diet, and over a span of 11 days dropped their blood pressures 6%, and up to twice that in those that came in hypertensive.

14th leading killer is Parkinson’s. Does a plant-based diet reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease? Good question. Well we know that every single prospective study on “dairy products or milk” and Parkinson’s disease found increased risk. Why?

Well, one possibility is that dairy products in the United States are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals.

There’s substantial evidence “suggesting that exposure to pesticides may increase Parkinson’s disease risk,” and autopsies have found higher levels of pollutants and pesticides in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients […] and some of these toxins are present at low levels in dairy products.

They’re talking about toxins like tetrahydroisoquinoline, a parkinsonism-related compound found predominantly in cheese. Although the amounts of this neurotoxin—even in cheese—are really “not very high,” the concern is that the chemical may accumulate in the brain over long periods of consumption.

And finally, aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by swallowing problems due to Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, or a stroke, all of which we’ve already covered.

So, where does this leave us? These are the top fifteen reasons Americans die, and a plant-based diet can help prevent, nearly all of them…, can help treat, more than half of them, and in some cases even reverse the progression of disease, including our top three killers.

There are drugs that can help too. You can take one drug to treat cholesterol every day for the rest of your life, another drug for blood sugars, a couple different pills for high blood pressure.

The same diet, though, does it all! It’s not like one diet for this; a different diet for that. One diet to rule them all.

And what about drug side effects? I’m not talking a little rash or something. Prescription drugs kill… more than a hundred thousand Americans every year. And that’s not medication errors, not abuse, not overdose; that’s just deaths from side effects, ADRs, adverse drug reactions to prescription drugs.

Wait a second, 100,000 deaths a year? That means, that the six leading cause of death—is actually doctors!

The sixth leading cause of death… is me!

Thankfully, I can be prevented, with a plant based diet …

Seriously, though. Seriously, compared to 15,000 American vegetarians, meat eaters had about twice the odds of being on aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives and insulin. So plant-based diets are great for those that don’t like taking drugs, or paying for drugs, or risking adverse effects.

This study did show, though, that plant-based diets have their own side effects. Side effects include less chronic disease, fewer allergies, and fewer surgeries, vegetarians have less varicose veins to hemorrhoids—even fewer hysterectomies.

And not just protection from the big killers like coronary artery disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, but less diverticulosis, for example–significantly fewer diseases overall—that’s the side-effects of a plant-based diet. Less disease overall. Here’s the allergies thing.

According to the longest running study on vegetarians in history, compared to vegetarians, women who eat meat appear to have a 30% greater chance of reporting chemical allergies, 24% more asthma, more drug allergies and even bee-sting allergies, and 15% more hay fever

A new side effect of plant-based eating we just learned about last year— fewer cataracts. That’s what we get—fewer cataracts, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss. Compared to those just eating about a single serving of meat a day, cutting down to half a serving a day appears to cut risk 15%, just do fish you’re down 21%, no fish 30% drop in risk, and then no eggs and dairy for the full 40% drop in cataract risk.

And that’s all in addition to my favorite side effect of plant-based diets, helping to prevent 15 of our top 16 killers.

Want to solve the healthcare crisis? I have a suggestion.

Imagine, if our nation embraced a plant-based diet. Imagine if we just significantly cut back on meat. There is one country that tried.

After World War 2, Finland joined us in packing on the meat, eggs, and dairy. By the 1970’s, the mortality rate from heart disease of Finnish men was the highest in the world, even putting us to shame. They didn’t want to die, so they got serious. Heart disease is caused by high cholesterol, high cholesterol is caused by high saturated fat intake, so the main focus of the strategy was to reduce the high saturated fat intake in the country. So that means cheese and chicken, cake and pork. So, a berry project was launched to help dairy farmers make a switch to berry farming. Whatever it took. And indeed, many farmers did switch from dairies to berries. They pitted villages against each other in friendly cholesterol-lowering competitions to see who could do best.

So how’d they do? On a population scale, even if mortality rates drop 5% you could still save thousands of lives. But remarkably great changes took place…

An 80% drop in cardiac mortality across the entire country. “With greatly reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality the all cause mortality has reduced about 45%, leading to greater life expectancy: approximately 7 years for men and 6 years for women.” And that was just cutting down on animal products.

Now vying for the world record for heart disease deaths, the United States of America.

So why doesn’t our government make those same recommendations? I’ve got a whole series of videos on the conflicts of interests within the U.S. dietary guideline committees. Whether being funded by candy bar companies, or the sugar association. Or a member of the “McDonald’s Council on Healthy Lifestyles,” or, serving on Coca cola’s beverage institute for health and wellness. Notice we only found out about this thanks to a lawsuit by PCRM suing USDA. One committee member, served as a Duncan Hines “brand girl” and then as the official Crisco brand girl.

These are the folks that dictate U.S. nutrition policy. If you read the official dietary guidelines committee recommendations you’ll note there’s “no discussion at all, of the scientific research on the health consequences of eating meat. If the Committee actually discussed this research, it would be unable to justify its recommendation to eat meat at all, as the research would show that meat increases the risks of chronic diseases, contrary to the purposes of the Guidelines. Thus, by simply ignoring that research, the Committee is able to reach a conclusion that would otherwise look improper.” They can’t even talk about the science.

We know that “a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and no meat reversed heart disease, completely prevented deaths from heart disease, and slowed the progression of cancer, and an almost identical diet is promoted by the World Cancer Research Fund to prevent cancer, as based on the largest review of scientific studies to date.” But again, they can’t even talk about the science because how could they justify anything but a plant-based diet?

Let me end, with what is probably the best summary of nutrition policy in the United States I’ve ever seen: “The new dietary guidelines have been released. They tell us to eat healthier… But… not so healthy as to noticeably affect any corporate profits. Thank you very much.

Don’t forget to check out my new video every day. Please share the site with friends and family. Buy them all DVDs. All proceeds to charity. And remember, please feel free to stop by for a free cholesterol check. See you, everybody. Bye.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by vetstud.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org.

Aaron Wissner of Local Future generously donated his time and energies to videotape this presentation.

In past years I’ve addressed the most pressing dietary issues of our time, like: What’s the healthiest variety of apple, the most nutritious nut, the best bean, the best berry, the best bowel movement!…

Who’s #1 at #2? Well, it wasn’t the new Yorkers—the most constipated population ever described in the medical literature, outputting an average of just 3 measly ounces a day…

Maybe if they’d just eat a big apple once and awhile…

But this year, I thought I’d lighten it up, and answer: What’s-the-best… way-to-prevent, death. Every year the CDC updates the leading causes of death in the United States. So, let’s just start at the top, and touch on what’s new in each category.

Heart disease, #1. The 35 year follow-up of the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study was just published now the most definitive long-term study ever on older women’s health. Since the study started, thousands of participants died, but that allowed them to determine the “risk factors for mortality.”

Because heart disease was the leading cause of death, it comes as no surprise that dietary cholesterol consumption was significant risk factor for dying. The second leading cause was smoking-related cancer deaths, but what’s so neat about this study is that it’s a competing risks analysis, so it allowed them to compare different risks to one another.

Consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg-a-day appears to cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking 5 cigarettes a day, for 15 years.

The most protective behavior they found was fiber consumption. Eating just a cup of oatmeal’s worth of fiber a day appears to extend a woman’s life as much as 4 hours of jogging a week, but of course there’s no reason you can’t do both.

It’s worth noting that the intake of cholesterol, only found in animal foods, was associated with living a shorter life and the intake of fiber, only found in plant foods, was associated with living a longer life.

The one specific food most tied to longevity was, nuts. You also appear to get 4 hours of weekly jogging benefit eating just two handfuls of nuts a week.

Yeah, heart disease, #1 cause of death, but what if your cholesterol’s normal? I hear that all the time, and have to break it to them that having a “normal” cholesterol in a society where it’s normal to… drop dead of a heart attack—is not necessarily a good thing. Remember, it’s our #1 killer.

In a huge study last year, most heart attack patients “fell within recommended targets for LDL cholesterol, demonstrating that the current guidelines may not be low enough to cut heart attack risk.” Close to half of heart attack victims had quote-unquote “optimal” cholesterol levels… though I’m not sure their grieving spouses and orphaned children will take much comfort in that fact. What is considered “optimal” is still too high.

Yeah, having a below average cholesterol reduces your risk, but, as the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology wrote more than a decade ago, it’s time to shift from just decreasing risk to actually preventing and arresting atherosclerosis. You don’t want low risk; you want no risk—how do you do it.

“For the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian. Because relatively few persons are willing to abide by the vegetarian lifestyle, lipid-lowering drugs are required in most to reach the 150 level. So it’s our choice.

Now notice though, even though the average vegan has a cholesterol of 150, it doesn’t mean that all vegans have 150. That’s why I do free cholesterol screenings here at Summerfest. Stop by my table. A little drop of blood. Just will take a couple of minutes. I’ll be happy to do that for you.

So it’s our choice—diet or drugs. Why not just choose the drugs? The FDA just announced newly-mandated safety labeling for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor, Zocor, and Vytorin, etc. The FDA issued new side-effect warnings regarding the increased risk of brain related side effects such as memory loss and confusion, an increase in blood sugar levels and risk of new-onset diabetes.

One prominent cardiologist described the Faustian bargain: fewer heart attacks, but more diabetes. And, we learned just a few weeks ago “adverse effects of statins on energy levels and fatigue even at moderate doses, particularly for women.

With all the memory loss and confusion caused by these drugs, folks may forget there’s actually way to lower the risk of heart attacks and diabetes at the same time, a plant-based diet.

Now cholesterol is just half of the heart disease story. The other half is inflammation. We’ve known for 15 years, that a single meal high in animal fat— sausage and egg McMuffins were used in the original study— can paralyze our arteries, cutting their ability to relax normally in half within just hours of eating animal products. The lining of our entire vascular tree gets inflamed and stiffened. And just as the inflammatory crippled state starts to calm down 5 or 6 hours later—lunchtime! We may then whack our arteries with another load of meat, eggs, or dairy for lunch, such that most people are stuck in this chronic low-grade inflammation danger zone, which may set them up for inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer one meal at a time.

Does the same thing to our lungs–again, within hours. Inflammation in our airways. A single meal causing internal damage not just decades down the road but right then and there, that day, within hours of it going in your mouth.

And just this year, we may have finally solved the mystery as to why. It doesn’t appear to be the animal fat itself. And it’s apparently not the animal protein, (which is what we see triggering inflammation in arthritis). So if it’s not the animal fat, and it’s not the animal protein, what is it?

The whole thing is a crazy cool detective story that I’ll be putting up in a series of videos next week actually, but I’ll just cut to the chase—spoiler alert! After a meal of animal products, people suffer from endotoxemia, their bloodstream becomes awash with bacterial toxins, known as endotoxins, that are present in animal products. So no wonder our body goes crazy.

These dead meat bacteria toxins aren’t destroyed by stomach acid… aren’t destroyed by digestive enzymes, aren’t destroyed by cooking—they tried boiling meat for hours. “These bacterial endotoxins were found to be highly resistant to cooking and our bodies’ best attempts at acid and enzyme digestion.”

And then the animal fat actually does play a profound role, ferrying the bacterial toxins present in the meat through the gut wall into our system.

So the reason animal products trigger immediate inflammation appears to be because they’re so loaded with bacteria that can trigger inflammation dead or alive even when they’re fully cooked, and saturated animal fat then boosts the absorption of the bacterial toxins into our bloodstream.

So now that we know what’s going on, what do we need to do? From a 2012 follow-up: “While the most obvious solution to this metabolic endotoxemia appears to be to reduce saturated fat intake” (which in this country comes mostly from cheese and chicken), but, they say, “the Western diet is not conducive to this mode of action; it’s difficult for patients to comply with this request.” So what? Let’s not even tell them?

This patronizing attitude in the medical profession that “oh, patients won’t improve their diets, or stop smoking—even if it’s going to save their lives, so why bother?” That attitude may be one of the true leading causes of death.

But let’s get back to the official list, and take on Cancer next. What’s the latest?

We know from the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer ever, that “the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians,” especially some of the fastest growing tumors, lymphomas and leukemias. And for that the worst meat was actually chicken….

Up to triple the rates for every 50 grams of daily poultry consumption. That’s just a quarter of a chicken breast may triple your risk.

Normally this entire presentation would be in kind of a quiz show format, but there was a scheduling mix-up. I was supposed to be the last speaker of the night, at night, and so I could go long and not interfere with the schedule. But, anyway, it won’t happen again, and so next year be back to the quiz show format. And I apologize. I had to cut this short.

The link between meat and cancer is such that even the journal Meat Science asked last year “Should we become vegetarians, or… can we make meat safer. There’s a bunch of additives, for example, that “can suppress the toxic effects of heme iron,” the blood iron that’s found in meat. These additives are still under study, but “could provide an acceptable way to prevent colon cancer,” because evidently avoiding meat is just out of the question.

 They fear that if the National Cancer Institute recommendations to reduce meat consumption “were adhered to, sure, cancer incidence may be reduced, but famers and the meat industry would suffer important economical problems…”

For those of us more concerned about the suffering caused the meat industry, than the suffering of the meat industry, what happens if you put cancer on a vegan diet? The Pritikin Research Foundation just completed an elegant series of experiments that I want to spend a bit of time on them. Simple experiments. They put people on different diets, drew their blood and dripped their blood on cancer cells growing in a petri dish and just stood back to see whose blood was better at suppressing cancer growth.

They were the ones that published that study showing the blood of those on a vegan diet was dramatically less hospitable to cancer. Even the blood of those on a standard American diet fights cancer; if it didn’t everyone would be dead. It’s just that the blood of those eating vegan fights about 8 times better.

The blood of those on the standard American diet slows cancer growth rate down about 9%. Put people on a plant-based diet for a year, though, and their blood just tears it up. The blood circulating within the bodies of vegans has nearly 8 times the stopping power when it comes to cancer cell growth.

Now this was for prostate cancer, the most common cancer of men, In women, it’s breast cancer, so the Pritikin researchers tried duplicating the study with women using breast cancer cells instead. They didn’t want to wait a whole year to get the results, though. So they figured they’d see what a plant-based diet could do in just two weeks, against three different types of human breast cancer.

This is the before, cancer growth powering away at 100%. And then after, eating a plant-based diet for 14 days.

The same blood that was now coursing through these women’s bodies gained the power to significantly slow down, and stop breast cancer cell growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a plant-based diet.

What kind of blood do we want in our body, what kind of immune system? Do we want blood that just kind of rolls over when cancer cells pop up, or do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny of our body that has the power to slow down and stop them?

Now this strengthening of cancer defenses was after 14 days of a plant-based diet and exercise, they were out walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Maybe the only reason their blood started becoming so effective at suppressing cancer growth was because of the exercise—maybe the diet had nothing to do with it. So they put it do the test.

This is measuring cancer cell clearance. This is what we saw before, the effect of blood taken from those who ate a plant-based diet, in this case for 14 years and along with mild exercise—like just walking every day. Plant-based diet and walking—that’s the kind of cancer cell clearance you get. Compared to the cancer stopping power of your average sedentary meat-eater, which is basically nonexistent.

This middle group, instead of 14 years on a plant-based diet, ate 14 years of a standard American diet but had 14 years of daily strenuous, hour-long exercise, like calisthenics. The researchers wanted to know if you exercise hard enough, long enough, can you rival some strolling plant-eaters.

And… exercise helped—no question, but literally 5,000 hours in the gym, was no match for a plant-based diet.

Here’s an actual photomicrograph of cancer cells stained so that they’d release light when they die. As you can see in the control group, there were a few cancer cells dying. Even if you are a couch potato eating fried potatoes, your body’s not totally defenseless. But here’s the hard-core strenuous exercise group. Cancer cells dying left and right. But nothing appears to kick cancer butt more than a plant based diet. 

Why, though? Some people don’t care why, but I’m always curious. How does a simple dietary change make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer in just a matter of days? We didn’t know until last year, when “[they] sought to determine the underlying mechanisms for these anticancer effects.”

It’s a wild story I have a whole series of videos coming out about. It in involves little people, big people; It involves big dogs and… little dogs, the story involves marshmallows… tinkertoys… cannibalism, and vegan bodybuilders, from beef steak to beefcake—I wish I had time—but the videos will be up soon. Bottom line—the answer to the Pritikin puzzle is IGF-1.

Insulin-like Growth Factor One is a cancer-promoting growth hormone involved in every stage of cancer growth, proliferation, metastasis, and invasion. But you put people on a plant-based diet and their IGF-1 levels go down, and if they stay on a plant-based diet their levels drop even further.

And their IGF-1 binding protein levels go up. That’s one way our body tries to protect itself from cancer—from excessive growth—by releasing a binding protein into our bloodstream to tie up IGF-1. It’s like our body’s emergency brake. Yes, in as little as 11 days, a plant-based diet can reprogram your body to bring down IGF-1 production, but you still have all that IGF-1 circulating in your bloodstream from the bacon and eggs you had the week before. So, your liver releases a snatch squad of binding proteins to take it out of circulation, and as you can see it just gets better and better the longer you eat healthy.

Here’s the experiment that nailed IGF-1 as the villain. Same as last time. Go on a plant-based diet; Cancer cell growth drops; and cancer cell death, shoots up. But then here’s the kicker. What if you added back to the cancer the exact same amount of IGF-1 banished from your body because you were eating healthy? … It erases the diet and exercise effect. It’s like you never started eating healthy at all.

So that’s how we know that lowering animal product consumption leads to lower IGF-1, which leads to lower cancer growth. But how low does animal-product-consumption have to go? How plant-based does our diet need to get? Well, let’s look at IGF1 levels in meat eaters, versus vegetarians, versus vegans. Does a plant-based diet work better at lower the circulating level of IGF-1 compared with a meat-eating or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, and this is what they found. Only the vegans had significantly lower levels. And the same relationship found with IGF-binding capacity. Only the vegans were significantly able to bind up excess IGF-1 in their blood streams.

This was a study done on women…, what about vegan men? They found the same thing… So even though vegan men tend to have significantly higher testosterone levels, than both vegetarians and meat eaters—which can be a risk factor for prostate cancer, the reason plant-based diets appear to reverse the progression of prostate cancer, may be due to how low their IGF-1 drops. High testosterone, yet low cancer.

The bottom line… is that male or female, just eating vegetarian did not seem to cut it—didn’t do their body many favors. It looks like to get a significant drop in cancer-promoting growth hormone levels one really has to move towards eliminating animal products altogether. The good news is that given what we now know about IGF-1, we can predict, “that a… vegan diet may be profoundly protective with respect to, for example, risk for breast cancer in older women.”

OK, just 13 causes of death to go! What time is it?

Let me quickly run the list. The top three killers used to be heart disease/cancer/stroke. Oh, that is so 2011. Now it’s heart disease, cancer and COPD—like emphysema. Thankfully, COPD can be prevented with the help of a plant-based diet, and even treated with plants if you want to check that out.

Of course, the tobacco industry viewed these landmark findings a little differently. Instead of adding plants to ones diet to prevent emphysema, wouldn’t it be simpler to just add them to the cigarettes? And voila, the addition of acai berries to cigarettes evidently had a protective effect against emphysema in smoking mice.

Next they’re going to be putting berries in meat. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Adding fruit extracts to burgers was not without its glitches, though. The blackberries “literally dyed burger patties with a distinct purplish color…” though infusing lamb carcasses with kiwifruit juice before rigor mortis sets in does evidently improve tenderness… and it is possible to improve the nutritional profile of frankurters with powdered grape seeds… though there were complaints that the grape seed particles were visible in the final product, and if there’s one thing we know about hot dog eaters, it’s that they’re picky about what goes in their food.

Pig anus? OK, but grape seeds? Ew!

Preventing strokes, killer #4, is all about eating potassium rich foods. Potassium, from the words pot ash. You take any plant, put it in a pot and reduce it to ash you’re left with pot-ash-ium—true story, but can anyone name me a plant food particularly high in potassium???

Why is that like the one thing everyone knows about nutrition? Did Chiquita have a good PR firm or something?

I bet you could walk into the Heart Attack Grill, where they’re eating things like this, and ask anyone, and they may be like “I don’t know what to should eat, but I do know bananas got potassium.”

In reality, bananas don’t even make the top 50 sources, coming in at #86, right behind fast food vanilla milk shakes.

Let’s see who can guess the food with the highest potassium. Let’s get everyone on their feet. Is the whole food with the highest potassium content a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or nut. Ok, root stem leaf or flower? What kind of green and then number to beet—I keep giving you hint)

The top five sources are tomato and orange concentrates, and then in terms of whole foods, greens, beans, and dates.

In fact if you look at the next leading cause of death, bananas, could be downright dangerous.

Alzheimer’s, now our sixth leading killer. We’ve known for nearly 20 years now, that those who eat meat—red or white—appear between 2 to 3 times more likely to become demented, compared to vegetarians. And the longer you’re vegetarian, the lower your risk of dementia.

But the exciting new research is on treating Alzheimer’s using natural plant remedies, which beat out placebo, and worked as well as a leading Alzheimer’s drug. Again, all on the website; all for free.

Next on the kick-the-bucket, list… diabetes, which can be prevented, treated, and even reversed in many cases—check out Brenda’s talk at 3 o’clock today. This is from October. Those eating vegetarian had significantly lower risk of diabetes, but vegans did the best. And ready for the shocker? This was after controlling for obesity. Sure vegans have less diabetes—they’re skinny, but even at the same weight, vegans had just a fraction of the diabetes risk.

Why are vegans, on average, so slim? Obesity is so rare among those eating plant-based diets, nutrition researchers have been desperate to uncover their secret. Yes, they tend to eat fewer calories… but not that many fewer. In the past I’ve gone through a couple of the theories that have emerged. Maybe it’s because people eating plant-strong diets express more of the fat shoveling enzyme inside the powerplants—the mitochondria–within their cells, maybe it’s because they grow different populations of good bacteria in their gut, Maybe it’s because they’re avoiding the obesogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals in meat? An obesity-causing virus in poultry may even be contributing. We’re still not sure, but the theories keep coming.

Here’s the latest: Maybe it’s the propionate. After all, what’s one of the things that’s only in plant foods, never in animal foods? Fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up, plants have fiber to hold them up.

I thought fiber was defined, though, by our inability to digest it. True, we can’t break down fiber, but the gazillions of good bacteria in our guts can. What do they make with it? Propionate, which gets absorbed into our blood stream. So technically we can digest fiber, but just not without a little help from our little friends.

 What does propionate do? Well it inhibits cholesterol synthesis. That’s nice. It also appears to have hypophagic effect, meaning it helps us eat less, apparently by slowing down the rate at which food empties from our stomachs, thereby making us feel fuller longer. “Propionate may either regulate food intake or the generation of new fat cells resulting in an overall anti-obesity effect.” And we can boost the numbers of good bacteria in our gut without probiotics just by eating vegetarian, because we’re feeding our little friends with fiber.

Animal foods also tend to be more calorically dense. For example, to walk off the calories found in single pat of butter you’d have to add an extra 700 yards to your evening stroll…. A quarter mile jog… for each sardine you put in your mouth—and that’s just the edible part. And any who choose to eat two chicken legs better get out on their own two legs and go run an extra 3 miles that day to outrun weight gain.

And that’s for steamed chicken… skin removed.

Here’s the latest: “Meat consumption and prospective weight change.” “Hundreds of thousands of men and women across 10 countries’’ with ‘‘weight gain measured over a 5 year period’’.

What did they find? “Total meat consumption was associated with weight gain.’’ Conclusion: Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management. And this was after controlling for initial weight, physical activity, educational level, smoking status, total energy intake… Wait-a-second—what?! That’s the kicker.

The link between meat and weight gain remained even after controlling for calories, meaning if you have two people eating the same number of calories—the person eating meat may gain more weight. In fact they even calculated how much more.

An intake of 250 g meat/day—like a steak, would lead to an annual weight gain 422 g higher than the weight gain experienced with a same-calorie diet with lower meat content. After 5 y, the weight gain would be about 5 pounds more. Same calories, yet 5 pounds heavier eating meat. And steak was nothing. “The strongest relation with annual weight change—weight gain—was observed for poultry.”

Let’s say you start out normal weight and eat a hamburger every day. This is how much extra weight beyond what’s already in the calories you’d put on every year. What if instead you had the same amount of calories of processed meat, say a ham sandwich? You’d gain this much extra, whereas, just about a half a chicken breast puts you, up to here, above and beyond the calories.

“In conclusion, our results indicate that meat intake is associated with weight gain and this association persisted after adjustment for total energy intake. Our results are therefore in favor of the public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption for health improvement.”

For more, Make sure to catch the meat industry’s take on that study—very interesting, as well as PCRM’s amazing work putting a vegan diet to work in a corporate setting.

Kidney failure, 8th leading cause of death can be prevented with a plant-based diet; can be treated with a plant-based diet. Why?

Our kidneys are highly vascular organs. That’s why kidneys look so, red inside. Our two little kidneys filter through our entire blood supply. And so if the standard American diet is so toxic to blood vessels in our heart, brain, and pelvis, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and sexual dysfunction, what might it be doing to our kidneys?

Long story short, Harvard researchers found three significant risk factors for declining kidney function—meaning losing protein in your urine (your body’s not supposed to be peeing out it’s protein). The three risk factors were animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol. No such association was found for plant protein or plant fat. It’s not protein; it’s not fat—it’s animal protein; animal fat.

Not only do vegans appear to have better kidney function, dramatic improvements were found treating kidney failure patients with pure vegetarian diets after only one week.

Leading killer number nine is people dying from respiratory infections Check out my video Kale and the Immune System, about the immunostimulatory effects of kale—is there anything kale can’t do?

And if you look at my video Boosting immunity through diet, which was actually the video-of-the-day on Wednesday of this week, you can see that even just eating a few extra fruits and vegetables can significantly improve one’s immune response to pneumococcal pneumonia.

Suicide, is number 10. Last year at Summerfest, I talked about improving mood through diet We knew vegetarian diets were associated with healthier mood states, but you can’t tell if it’s cause and effect until you put it to the test, which they did this year. You take regular meat-eaters, and remove meat, fish, poultry—and eggs, from their diets, and you can see a significant improvement in mood scores, after just two weeks—it can take drugs like Prozac months to take effect.

The way drugs like Prozac work is by elevating levels of serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone. Did you know there’s serotonin in plants? I certainly didn’t, but there’s serotonin, and dopamine and all sorts of human neurotransmitters in plants so much so there’s been a call to start treating depression with high-content sources of serotonin, you know, like plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes. And what’s the side effects, maybe you’ll get a little strawberry seed stick in your teeth or something?

Maybe that’s why a high intake of vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and soy was associated with a decreased prevalence of depressive symptoms. Maybe that’s why improved behavior in teenagers was significantly associated with higher intakes of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit.

For more, keep an eye out for my videos coming up on the wrong way to boost serotonin, which is taking tryptophan supplements. Better ways to boost serotonin, to fight disorders such as premenstrual depression, and the best way… as reported in this double-blind, placebo controlled crossover study of the successful use of butternut squash seeds, in the treatment of social anxiety disorder, for example.

How might a plant-based diet prevent systemic infections? Well, meat-borne bacteria can t directly invade one’s bloodstream through the intestinal wall, or in women creep up into their bladder.

Just last month, June 2012, direct DNA fingerprinting proof that women are getting urinary tract infections from eating meat contaminated with fecal bacteria, which then crawl up into your bladder. And chicken is the most likely reservoir.

Wait a second. You can’t sell unsafe cars, you can’t sell unsafe toys, how is it legal to sell unsafe meat?

They do it by blaming the consumer. As one USDA poultry microbiologist said: “Raw meats are not idiot-proof. They can be mishandled and when they are, it’s like handling a hand grenade. If you pull the pin, somebody’s going to get hurt.” See if we get sick, it’s our fault.

While some may question the wisdom of selling hand grenades in the supermarket, the USDA poultry expert disagrees: “I think the consumer has the most responsibility but refuses to accept it.” That’s like a car company saying yeah, we installed faulty brakes, but it’s your fault for not putting your kid in a seatbelt.

A director of at the Centers for Disease Control responded famously to this kind of blame-the-victim attitude. “Is it reasonable,” she asked, “that if a consumer undercooks a hamburger… their three-year-old dies?” Is that reasonable?

Not to worry, though: the meat industry’s on it. They just got the FDA approval for a bacteria-eating virus to spray on meat.

Now some have raised concerns about these so-called bacteriophages, such as the possibility of the viruses spreading toxin genes between bacteria, especially given the difficulties in preventing of large numbers of these viruses from being released into the environment from the slaughterhouses.

It could also allow the meat industry to become even more complacent about food safety if they know they can just spray some viruses on at the end, similar to the quick fix argument about irradiation. From the industry point of view, who cares if there’s fecal matter in the meat as long as it’s blasted at the end with enough radiation.

Now the meat industry’s concerned that consumer acceptance of bacteria-eating viruses may present something of a challenge. If they think that’s going to be a challenge, check out their other bright idea

The “Effect of Extracted Housefly Pupae on Chilled Pork Preservation.” A sciency way of saying they want smear a maggot mixture on meat.

It’s a low cost and simple method. Think about it. Maggots thrive on rotting meat, yet, there have been no reports that maggots have any serious diseases—not that anyone checked, but… indicating that they have a strong immune system. They must be packed with some sort of antibacterial properties—otherwise they’d get infected and die themselves.

So they took maggots who were 3 days old, washed them, dried them–toweled them off—put through them in tissue blender—a little vitamix action, and voila! Safer meat.

We did kidney failure, what about liver failure. We’ve known for 35 years–since 1977, that a vegetable-protein diet could be used to treat liver failure, significantly reducing the toxins that would otherwise have built up eating meat with a less-than-functional liver. Imagine eating meat without a fully functional liver to detoxify your blood.

I do have to admit, though, that some people live on plant-based diets have worsening liver function. They’re called, alcoholics…

In fact strictly plant-based living on potatoes, corn, grapes, barley—and yet still for some reason not doing so hot.

High blood pressure is next, so-called essential hypertension, essentially, only found in people that eat meat. Again, look at this—we’ve known for decades, that “consumption of food of animal origin was highly significantly associated with blood pressure”—even after “weight effects were removed.”

Fast-forward 39 years to 2012. Compared to non-vegetarians, as you go more and more plant-based—flexitarian, to just eating fish, to lacto-ovo to vegan you can see hypertension rates drop progressively down to a small fraction. Same thing with diabetes, a stepwise drop in risk as you lower animal product consumption. Same thing with body mass index, in fact vegans were the only dietary group that is on average not overweight—even the vegetarians were overweight.

Diabetes and hypertension are both leading causes of death. Is it going to take doctors another 39 years before we actually start doing something about it?

How long does it take being vegan, to bring blood pressures down? Twelve, days!

McDougall took 500 meat eaters, but them on a vegan diet, and over a span of 11 days dropped their blood pressures 6%, and up to twice that in those that came in hypertensive.

14th leading killer is Parkinson’s. Does a plant-based diet reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease? Good question. Well we know that every single prospective study on “dairy products or milk” and Parkinson’s disease found increased risk. Why?

Well, one possibility is that dairy products in the United States are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals.

There’s substantial evidence “suggesting that exposure to pesticides may increase Parkinson’s disease risk,” and autopsies have found higher levels of pollutants and pesticides in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients […] and some of these toxins are present at low levels in dairy products.

They’re talking about toxins like tetrahydroisoquinoline, a parkinsonism-related compound found predominantly in cheese. Although the amounts of this neurotoxin—even in cheese—are really “not very high,” the concern is that the chemical may accumulate in the brain over long periods of consumption.

And finally, aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by swallowing problems due to Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, or a stroke, all of which we’ve already covered.

So, where does this leave us? These are the top fifteen reasons Americans die, and a plant-based diet can help prevent, nearly all of them…, can help treat, more than half of them, and in some cases even reverse the progression of disease, including our top three killers.

There are drugs that can help too. You can take one drug to treat cholesterol every day for the rest of your life, another drug for blood sugars, a couple different pills for high blood pressure.

The same diet, though, does it all! It’s not like one diet for this; a different diet for that. One diet to rule them all.

And what about drug side effects? I’m not talking a little rash or something. Prescription drugs kill… more than a hundred thousand Americans every year. And that’s not medication errors, not abuse, not overdose; that’s just deaths from side effects, ADRs, adverse drug reactions to prescription drugs.

Wait a second, 100,000 deaths a year? That means, that the six leading cause of death—is actually doctors!

The sixth leading cause of death… is me!

Thankfully, I can be prevented, with a plant based diet …

Seriously, though. Seriously, compared to 15,000 American vegetarians, meat eaters had about twice the odds of being on aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives and insulin. So plant-based diets are great for those that don’t like taking drugs, or paying for drugs, or risking adverse effects.

This study did show, though, that plant-based diets have their own side effects. Side effects include less chronic disease, fewer allergies, and fewer surgeries, vegetarians have less varicose veins to hemorrhoids—even fewer hysterectomies.

And not just protection from the big killers like coronary artery disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, but less diverticulosis, for example–significantly fewer diseases overall—that’s the side-effects of a plant-based diet. Less disease overall. Here’s the allergies thing.

According to the longest running study on vegetarians in history, compared to vegetarians, women who eat meat appear to have a 30% greater chance of reporting chemical allergies, 24% more asthma, more drug allergies and even bee-sting allergies, and 15% more hay fever

A new side effect of plant-based eating we just learned about last year— fewer cataracts. That’s what we get—fewer cataracts, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss. Compared to those just eating about a single serving of meat a day, cutting down to half a serving a day appears to cut risk 15%, just do fish you’re down 21%, no fish 30% drop in risk, and then no eggs and dairy for the full 40% drop in cataract risk.

And that’s all in addition to my favorite side effect of plant-based diets, helping to prevent 15 of our top 16 killers.

Want to solve the healthcare crisis? I have a suggestion.

Imagine, if our nation embraced a plant-based diet. Imagine if we just significantly cut back on meat. There is one country that tried.

After World War 2, Finland joined us in packing on the meat, eggs, and dairy. By the 1970’s, the mortality rate from heart disease of Finnish men was the highest in the world, even putting us to shame. They didn’t want to die, so they got serious. Heart disease is caused by high cholesterol, high cholesterol is caused by high saturated fat intake, so the main focus of the strategy was to reduce the high saturated fat intake in the country. So that means cheese and chicken, cake and pork. So, a berry project was launched to help dairy farmers make a switch to berry farming. Whatever it took. And indeed, many farmers did switch from dairies to berries. They pitted villages against each other in friendly cholesterol-lowering competitions to see who could do best.

So how’d they do? On a population scale, even if mortality rates drop 5% you could still save thousands of lives. But remarkably great changes took place…

An 80% drop in cardiac mortality across the entire country. “With greatly reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality the all cause mortality has reduced about 45%, leading to greater life expectancy: approximately 7 years for men and 6 years for women.” And that was just cutting down on animal products.

Now vying for the world record for heart disease deaths, the United States of America.

So why doesn’t our government make those same recommendations? I’ve got a whole series of videos on the conflicts of interests within the U.S. dietary guideline committees. Whether being funded by candy bar companies, or the sugar association. Or a member of the “McDonald’s Council on Healthy Lifestyles,” or, serving on Coca cola’s beverage institute for health and wellness. Notice we only found out about this thanks to a lawsuit by PCRM suing USDA. One committee member, served as a Duncan Hines “brand girl” and then as the official Crisco brand girl.

These are the folks that dictate U.S. nutrition policy. If you read the official dietary guidelines committee recommendations you’ll note there’s “no discussion at all, of the scientific research on the health consequences of eating meat. If the Committee actually discussed this research, it would be unable to justify its recommendation to eat meat at all, as the research would show that meat increases the risks of chronic diseases, contrary to the purposes of the Guidelines. Thus, by simply ignoring that research, the Committee is able to reach a conclusion that would otherwise look improper.” They can’t even talk about the science.

We know that “a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and no meat reversed heart disease, completely prevented deaths from heart disease, and slowed the progression of cancer, and an almost identical diet is promoted by the World Cancer Research Fund to prevent cancer, as based on the largest review of scientific studies to date.” But again, they can’t even talk about the science because how could they justify anything but a plant-based diet?

Let me end, with what is probably the best summary of nutrition policy in the United States I’ve ever seen: “The new dietary guidelines have been released. They tell us to eat healthier… But… not so healthy as to noticeably affect any corporate profits. Thank you very much.

Don’t forget to check out my new video every day. Please share the site with friends and family. Buy them all DVDs. All proceeds to charity. And remember, please feel free to stop by for a free cholesterol check. See you, everybody. Bye.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by vetstud.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org.

Aaron Wissner of Local Future generously donated his time and energies to videotape this presentation.

Doctor's Note

Today’s video-of-the-day is a NutritionFacts.org first. Though I don’t always succeed, I normally strive to make each of my videos about two minutes in length to match the typical online attention span. That’s why when this presentation was serendipitously taped last month, I turned it into a short DVD rather than uploading it directly to the site. But the response it got was so positive, that I really wanted to get it online. If you too found it valuable, please share it and pass it along. And if you haven’t already, you can subscribe for free to my videos at http://bit.ly/nutritionfactsup…. Tomorrow we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of more bite-sized servings of the latest in nutritional science.

The DVD of this presentation can be ordered on my website or through Amazon (all proceeds to charity).

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